Proposed new kickoff rule would give Packers an unfair advantage

Green Bay Packers, Keisean Nixon
Green Bay Packers, Keisean Nixon / Joshua Bessex/GettyImages

The Green Bay Packers' decision to re-sign Keisean Nixon is looking better by the day.

Nixon is a back-to-back first-team All-Pro as a return specialist. He averages 27.6 yards on kick returns and has led the league in total yards over the past two seasons. The Packers signed Nixon to a three-year, $18 million deal for his return ability and contributions as the starting slot corner.

The NFL is considering various rule changes this offseason, including a significant adjustment to kickoffs.

Nixon is already the best returner in the league, but the new rule proposal would give the Packers an unfair advantage over their opponents. Before we explain why, let's look at the potential rule change.

What are the NFL's proposed rule changes on kickoffs?

Next week, the NFL will vote on a drastic kickoff rule change. Michael Baca of provided a full breakdown of the proposal. There's a lot to it, so let's summarize the most important points.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • The "landing zone" is between the goal line and 20-yard line
  • Kickoffs that land in the landing zone must be returned
  • Kickoffs that go out of the end zone result in a touchback at the 35-yard line
  • Players (not including returner) can't move until the ball hits the landing zone or returner

That final point is the most notable. It would significantly impact a key element of the game, but no team would be as affected as the Packers, who returned a league-high 31 kicks last season. But it could be a major positive.

Why potential kickoff rule changes would greatly benefit Packers

In 2023, no player returned more kicks than Nixon. It didn't matter how deep the kickoff was, Nixon would return it at any opportunity. He is one of the best returners in football, earning back-to-back first-team All-Pro honors.

The new rule changes would give opposing teams a difficult choice. If they kick it deep to avoid Nixon, the Packers would get the ball at their 35-yard line, a significant swing in field position. But if they hit the "landing zone," they would put the ball in the hands of an All-Pro returner who has additional time to pick up yards because defenders can't move until he touches the ball.

Nixon wants the new rules to come in.

And who could blame him? To prevent a touchback at the 35-yard line, teams would have to willingly kick into the "landing zone," where Nixon would be waiting.

Crucially, defenders wouldn't be allowed to move until he had the ball in his hands, giving him nothing but open space to run into before any opposing players got near him, creating opportunities for big-time returns.

The new rules favor great returners. The Packers have one.

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